You’re all over the place emotionally; enraged, hurt, humiliated, terrified and very confused. How could this have happened? It couldn’t have. But it did! But it couldn’t have. This can’t be real. It happens to other people. But it did happen. It happened to us! But it couldn’t have…
You might start to wonder what you did to cause this. The answer is you didn’t cause it. But still… Your fear may be about the intensity of your hatred, or of your terror. Part of your terror might be that your marriage is over, whether because you don’t believe you could ever recover, or because you believe that your partner really wants to be with the other person.
One response to this terror is to just turn everything off. You go through the motions of daily life and feel nothing…until the next tidal wave. Another response is to desperately search for something that will take the agony away. You begin to think, maybe if I forgive, it will be better. Maybe family, friends or your religious beliefs support this. Your partner is encouraged. You try, you are resolute, but the torment breaks through. Why can’t I forgive, you wonder. And you begin to feel bad about yourself.
It is important to understand what forgiveness is and how genuine forgiveness comes about. First of all, forgiveness is not the same thing as saying what happened was okay. And it is not at all about forgetting. And it is not something that can be forced.
True forgiveness is something that happens naturally. It is a place you discover you have arrived at while you thought you were traveling in another land, in this case, the land of intense negative emotions. Forgiveness comes after all of the negative emotions are spent; allowed center stage and received by your partner and the two of you have moved through a process of reflection and eventually insight that will take you to places you cannot imagine right now. Then one day he asks, ” can you forgive me?” and you, as surprised as he, answer, “I already have!”
All of the research shows that your partner’s willingness to listen and be present drastically increases the likelihood not only that your marriage will survive, but that it will be better; will feel more alive and connected. However, your partner is struggling with his or her own feelings such as confusion, guilt and shame and these can make it hard to be present for your process of healing.
Weiselquist found that “Very few couples dealing with infidelity develop a thriving relationship without outside help. Hurt partners with strong barriers to leaving (e.g., religious beliefs, financial security, pressure from family or friends, fear that divorce will hurt their children) often experience ongoing relationship dissatisfaction…” He goes on to say that these partners remain emotionally distant from each other and the relationship comes to lack emotional intimacy.
Marriage counseling really does help couples heal from affairs. It is a safe place to bring your intention to forgive, or your doubts that you ever can, and be supported in the road to recovery.